This weekend we invited a few good friends for a last hurrah barbecue before it good to cold to cook outdoors. We decided on a surf and turf theme of steak and prawns, along with a salad of smoked duck breast (the recipe for another time), and mushroom soup. These little cornets were a last minute addition, inspired by the book I am reading now called Life, on the Line, by Grant Achatz of Alinea. While the story is an autobiography, the most interesting part of the book, at least for me, was reading about Thomas Keller. Achatz for a time worked at The French Laundry and he tells of his time in Keller’s kitchen and how Keller became his mentor. I have never (yet) been fortunate enough to eat at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, but I am told that every meal at The French Laundry begins with a “cornet”. The story goes that Keller was about to leave New York and move to LA and he was unhappy about the move. One night, his friends took him to a Chinese restaurant and then to Baskin-Robbins after. The man at the counter gave him his order in a cone and that was his “a-ha!” moment. This is where he came up with the idea. These cornets are filled with a red onion cream and topped with a salmon tartare. For a vegetarian option, he suggests eggplant caviar and roasted red peppers. In his cookbook, Keller says that people always smile when they are served these.
These cornets are by no means the easiest things to make. First it took a while for me to decide on how to make the stencil, then, I had to buy the cornet molds. Finally, when I started baking the batter, I didn’t realize that we had to pick up the tuilles straight from the oven, still seeping in HOT butter, so that I could mold them to the cornets. On the first night I made it, I ended well past midnight just trying to get it right. It took two batches to make just barely enough for our guests this weekend.
But the smile on their faces when they ate the cornets, was of course, all worth it.
Salmon Tartare with Sweet Onion Creme Fraiche
From Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook” Where possible, I have converted the measurements into weights, which is how I made the recipe.
For the Cornets
- 115 grams softened butter
- 20 grams sugar
- 65 grams flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 egg whites, cold
- 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
- First make the stencil which should be around 10 cm in diameter. A good guide to this can be found here
- Pre-heat the oven to 205c (fan forced)
- In a food processor, place the softened butter (make sure it is still cool to the touch) and sugar and mix on high until the sugar is fully incorporated and the butter has lightened in colour, a few seconds. Add the flour and salt and continue to mix again until fully incorporated, again, this should take no more than 5 to 10 seconds.
- Add the egg whites, one at a time, after each time, mix the batter on high until the whites are fully incorporated. The batter should now be light and fluffy.
- Place the stencil on top of a silpat or baking baking paper and sprinkle some sesame seeds inside the diameter of the stencil. Using an offset spatula, spread around 1.5 teaspoons of the batter on to stencil (make sure there are no holes), removing any excess batter.
- Leave about 3 cm between each round. Place the silpat or baking paper on a baking tray.
- Place the baking tray in the oven for around 5 to 6 minutes, until the batter is set, the edges may start to crinkle slightly. At this time, open the oven door and take the tray out and place it on the counter. Working quickly and carefully (there is hot melted butter that you will notice seeping from the cookies, use gloves if you need to), place a cornet mold on one of the batters and fold the bottom of the cornet batter on to the cornet to form a cone shape. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue with the rest of the cornets around the mold. Arrange the cornet molds, seam side down and lean them against each other to prevent them from rolling.
- When all the cornets are rolled, return the tray to the oven and bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, until the cornets are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them rest for a minute or so and place the cornets on some paper towels and allow to cool.
- Wipe the excess butter from the silpats and allow to cool down before moving on to the next batch. The cornets will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container.
For the Salmon Tartare
- 115 grams sashimi grade salmon
- 15 ml extra virgin olive oil
- lemon zest from 1/4 a lemon
- 1.5 teaspoons finely minced chives
- 1.5 teaspoons finely minced shallots, or red onions
- pinch of salt and pepper to taste
for the Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche
- 1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
- 125 grams creme fraiche
- pinch of salt and pepper to taste
- fresh chives for garnish
- To make the salmon tartare, finely diced the salmon using a very sharp knife. Place in a bowl with all the ingredients for the tartare. Set aside until ready to use, but for a minimum of 30 minutes and maximum of 12 hours.
- To make the Sweet red onion creme fraiche, place the red onions in a strainer and place under running cold water for a few seconds. Dry them on paper towels. Set aside. Whisk the creme fraiche until soft peaks, around 1 minute. Fold in the red onions and seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, for up to 6 hours.
- To serve, pipe some of the red onion creme fraiche (you can use a piping bag to make it easier), next, spoon around 1.5 teaspoons of the tartare over the onion cream and mold it into a dome resembling a scoop of ice cream. Lay a chive tip agains one side of the tartare to garnish.